Maybe you’ve picked up on this from our occasional coverage of New Japan Pro Wrestling, but Kazuchika Okada is kind of a big deal right now. The Rainmaker is currently in his third reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and he’s regarded as one of New Japan’s big four, alongside Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, and A.J. Styles. With puroresu arguably more popular in the United States than it’s ever been, I guess I really shouldn’t be too surprised that Rolling Stone landed an interview with him, but I still find it hard to process (in a good way). I don’t know if I can remember Okada doing any interviews with English-language publications, feel free to fact-check me in the comments though. The main thing you should take away from the interview is that he seems to have precisely zero interest in ever signing a WWE deal.
“I’m not interested in WWE at all. Many people ask me about WWE, and if I’d go to WWE in the future. They ask me if I’m going now. I will not go. I want to make New Japan Pro-Wrestling bigger. That’s my future.”
Okada has said before that his role in New Japan is to be the big fish that makes the small pond bigger, so it looks like his stance hasn’t changed over the years. There’s a selfish side of me that would love to see him stateside full-time, but I realize he’s much more of a sure bet in Japan. That’s not to say that he doesn’t enjoy a good American crowd, though.
“I love working in front of American crowds. When I do the pose [throws his arms wide], the crowd does it with me. I love that. The crowds don’t do that in Japan. They respond a lot more in America.”
It’s true, Americans love posing. I was at NXT in the Austin Music Hall last week and there wasn’t a single person who didn’t do the Finn Bálor Hands during his entrance. Also worth mentioning is Okada’s upcoming match with Genichiro Tenryu, which was revealed in a surprise announcement at August’s G1 Climax Finals. Judging by his comments, the Rainmaker sounds like he’s ready to be the Shawn Michaels to Tenryu’s Ric Flair.
“Tenryu is a legend in Japan. However, it will be just another match. I don’t know him well, so he’s just another wrestler to me.”
Ice cold, in typical Okada fashion. I hope his hype man Gedo is outside Tenryu’s house with a bullhorn right now, counting down to the match like Helga from Hey, Arnold. “JUST 52 DAYS UNTIL YOU DIE, OLD MAN”